A lot of resources in our local community are underutilised. There is a wealth of knowledge out there, a wealth of resources that can be hard to find but well, it's worth looking. Today I'm sharing where to find low to no cost Montessori materials. I'm not talking about Montessori school materials, but real life, practical, materials for a Montessori home. Because I believe a child size knife, feathers, paint, beautiful books are as just as important as the Pink Tower.
- Local Library. The local library can be wonderful for books but think, or look, outside of the box. Today my boys attended a free workshop on Little Bits (similar to snap circuits) and loved it. Our library has every changing workshops including on learning chess, how to use the internet, cartooning, there are so many options, but I also wouldn't be afraid to ask for a workshop I really wanted to see. When looking for books keep in mind Montessori principles of good quality, beautiful books that depict reality and will teach the child about the world. The library can also be a great place to find Montessori parenting books.
- Toy Library. I really wish there was (and I even thought about starting) a Montessori toy library. However, community toy libraries are generally low cost and there can be toys compatible with Montessori. Toy libraries can also be a good source for gross motor toys like rocking or balance toys and wooden stacking toys and puzzles. it is also a really good way of rotating toys without the big costs.
- Recycling or Reuse Centres. In Brisbane we have a centre called Reverse Garbage and it is the best resource. I bought a years worth of wood off cuts (for the children's wood-working) for nine dollars. We source most of our collaging materials, stickers, all kinds of recycled materials from here. Often these centres have art directors or teachers who specialise in working with children and will hold children's workshops, especially during the school holidays. It's also a good place to find cultural materials, we never know what we will find!
- Community (or Independent) Art Centres. We have an art centre near us which charges seven dollars per hour. This is extremely low cost considering the amount of materials my children go through. Art Centres often offer low cost speciality art classes or come and try sessions. This is really great for finding out what your child likes. Local pottery centres and pottery schools often sell very affordable or at cost, clay and pottery tools.
- Nature. Think feathers, rocks, seed pods, flowers, leaves, shells or dead insects. These can be collected on nature walks or simply in the backyard. They can be used for nature study (think nature table), identification, art, sorting. My kids get excited when they see a dead bug they haven't seen before and it can lead to a million lines of inquiry. Try different paths or parks or try taking a nature walk while travelling, or ask friends or relatives for a nature swap to add variety to your collection!
- Thrift Stores. I find lots of kitchen and practical life materials at thrift stores, think small vases, bowls, tongs. They can also be an inexpensive place to find real ceramics, that you don't mind if get accidently broken. They can also be good for finding books or old calendars (for images).
- Photographs. Photograph and print images of materials or toys for matching work. Print out two copies of the same image for matching. Print photographs of people (friends and family) and learn their names (or how to write their names). Ask family or friends to send photographs of geographical landmarks or of cultural events. Use photographs of scenery, beaches, forests etc.
- Recycled Materials. Think recycled materials from your own home. Containers for sorting or mixing. Egg cartons or paper rolls for collaging. Cut up large boxes or cereal boxes into squares or rectangles and put in the art area for painting or collage. Catalogues (think plant, seed/flower, pet store, fashion) for scissor practice, collaging or for language work.
- Packaging Materials. I love shopping online but the packaging is an issue! Almost all of it can be reused from foam (collaging) to brown paper (art). Try and be creative on how to reuse waste where it is safe to do so.
- Food. Nuts, beans, rice, pasta are all low cost options for sorting and pouring activities. Food is great for sensory activities such as identifying an item by touch (while blindfolded) taste or smell. Herbs can be used for identification and matching work. Food is great for cultural work (learning about what other cultures eat) and for language work.
- Variety, Hardware, Kitchen, Craft Stores. Keep your eyes open and think ahead. In some of these stores, you never know what you might find. Also think Ikea, Daiso, China Town and ethnic grocery stores. Great for practical life tools (kitchen, garden, trays, mats) and cultural materials.
- Second-Hand Sites or Free Cycle. Think Gum Tree or Ebay, good for things like Learning Towers. Consider garage sales and white elephant stalls.
- Handmade Markets. Again always have an open mind and don't be afraid to ask if you think the stall holder can make something custom. Good for children's furniture and tables, children's aprons, wooden bowls, wooden spoons, small ceramic wares. Etsy may be a good low cost option too.
- Montessori Print Stores and Websites. Many online Montessori stores offer low cost or free print materials. We use so many of these to supplement the work the boys do at school, so easy just print and use! Some free printable materials that I like in particular can be found at:
Other low cost ideas:
- Put larger items on wish lists. Items such as a small table and chair can be of great benefit to the child but can be expensive, can the larger items be bought as a gift by Grandparents for a birthday. Or can you put on an alert on for sales.
- Ask friends, colleagues and neighbours. You never know who might have something you are looking for in their garage. Let them know if you are looking for particular materials or furniture. Also think about what you have at home, possibly in storage, can it be loaned to a friend who might need it right now - think baby toys, furniture, Learning Towers, little chairs.